Better Propaganda Editor Terbo Ted talks to Uzi aka U.S.
betterPropaganda: Normally at the top of an interview I ask an artist to define themselves. So, what is U.S.?
Uzi: U.S. is a lot of things. I mean I'll tell how it started. I was smokin' an L and I was thinking of water which is the universal solvent, its known as cuz anything can be dissolved in it. So then I flipped it, the Universal Solution. It's also Under Surveillance, Unusually Sexy, Usually Single, the Unabomber Suspect of course.
bP: Let's talk about your new album. The Necessary Evil on Reality Check Records has a picture of the Unabomber on the cover and on the back you have him sitting in the Oval Office. What was the inspiration behind that? And how's the album doing for you?
U: Well it's well, thank you. Just doing the indie come up ... you know ... strong truth ... inject new shit .... entrepreneurial energy into music ... its beautiful. It's actually a portrait of me. So what's fresh about it is it's a many tiered thing. There's the sense of the necessary evil and just thinking of Kaczynski's life and the choices he made. I mean he was a fuckin' nut! But he was really ... besides being on some neo luddite shit he was really taking it to big man on campus on some real shit which is hot! Gangsta! And on the back cover its funny cuz its just him sitting there which is sort of to say that these are the kind of principal people we need in these office spaces ... people willing to what needs to be done ... but its also a commentary on our present situation ... and in a way that that attitude ... that approach what put us in the position we are in now where we have a terrorist for a president ... you know?
bP: Maybe you can elaborate on that. How would build the case that the current president is a terrorist?
U: Well, I just think that in the very human sense of believing your ideas are so right that you're gonna force them on people. But its complicated in our situation cuz its such a deeply ingrained way of relating that we have as a species ... to constantly deal in war ... you know what I mean? But at the same time its something that has to give way already ... its been thousands of years that we've been doing this ... and we really just need to kick it up another octave at this point ... it's the idea of thinking you're righter than someone else and that's really where it connects ...and that's what any terrorist does regardless of what they're doing is they are using fear and might and death and all the evils of this physical plane to normalize to conform to take away the freedom of others ... it's a power-over thing ... it's the classic psychological shit ... and its our disconnect from a sense of respect ... from a sense of really understanding that we all come from the same place ... that we are all in the same boat ... well the boat is the Goddamn planet! We have this blind spot to ourselves in a way ... its really kept us from coming together ... everybody who's on this boat should get food ... everybody who's on this boat should get a shot at being happy ... and with all the science and all the technology ... no one knows how we got here! It's a humbling thing ... it's a very humanizing thing that we would have to bear witness to it!
bP: So one thing I've learned studying you and your body of work is that you are someone that goes on a spiritual mission. You've somehow taken these transformational/meditational journeys and you've come up with this great purpose. And you've talked about all these human issues and you're very comfortable talking with politics. How did you get to that place? You're from Brooklyn you don't think of someone from Brooklyn talking bout spiritual matters necessarily.
U: It's crazy. I know. I really would say I was raised religious ... with the bible and church and everything ... and that kind of stuff ...I guess I was just one of those kids ... I just took them at their word ... and my folks are about that ... Its really just who I am ... I mean I was raised that it was important to be a good person ... and I have to give them credit ... I really do ... and I just really seen it as the way ... I've seen the way of materialism ... I mean we can make the choices we want ... I mean we all have that right ... I mean we all come from the same place ... so we all have to have that freedom ... to me I feel like I've been lucky to be 'forced' to really examine myself and to really care ...
bP: One thing that strikes me about your work is that its very natural sounding; your music's seems very earnest and real. When I listen to your tunes I have a feeling it's you; there's not all these extra layers of production. It seems you've gotten to a point with your work where you're in a situation of total freedom. Are you aware of that as you go about your day and your work?
U: Yeah. I try to be direct. I do my best. We have a great opportunity with music. We can model ways of living with it. Even in the structure in the sound. It's how I am. It's really right down the middle. I mean I adlib on maybe half of my tracks. And adlibs are beautiful especially in hip hop cuz it really deepens the perspective. I mean when there's like three people standing in one song ... theres the guy doing the rap and theres the guy doing the reaction ... because I pay so much attention to the words and to the message and to the verses sometimes I like to let the be there and just let them go with the beat ... and I've been really really lucky with production ... like the dudes I know are phenomenal ... and so many of those beats ... on the new record or any record I've ever done and hopefully will ever do ... the production ... the beats themselves already have a story ... which makes my job really easy ... cuz you hear melodies in it ... you hear a song ... you hear an emotion ... you hear a chord ... there's already a place its heading ... you're just going with it ... you're flowing with it ... and you're resolving it ... you're equating it ...
bP: Do you have any history or experience in doing open mic free poetry? That seems like something you would probably really good at.
U: Yeah. What it is ... I'm a shy dude ... and a snob ... I really think a lot of my work ... I got some shit to say ... this is a gift ... when you take it to a professional level ... you start to encounter a lot of situation where you can do free shows forever ... I mean there are a lot of culture vultures in New York man ... in hip hop period ... I mean we know how these contractors happened ... and this is before hip hop ... I mean you know all those old dudes ... none of them is seeing publishing ... I mean there is an endless amount of promoters who will let me rock free and open a show for the rest of my fuckin' life.
bP: You're playing a big show tonight aren't you?
U: Yeah. It's gonna be a great show. Its at Don Hills in New York in the Ville.
bP: I got something to drop on you that I haven't bothered to mention because I was just enjoying just hearing you talk about things. We sent you out today as our song of the week. That went out on our full emailing list just today.
U: Thank you. Thank you. That's really cool man. That song is really fresh man. I mean you dug it ... it's a conversation ... the first verse is a short thing ... its eight bars ... and then the second verse is an older man speaking ... he comes in on bar four ... and he starts talking about what he sees things through the eyes of someone who has lived through the civil rights movement ... seen people really stand up and change the way things happened ... to look at the kids we got now ... and to see us running around ... keeping our faces shiny ... trying to make the most money we can ... and eat as much as we can ... I can see where he's coming from in the second verse ... he's saying 'I seen Malcom talk ... what the fuck?! what happened?!' ... so the young man responds 'I hear ol' tima/fuck cutting off bush we need a whole new vagina' ...change the whole muthafucka ... you know? ... 'but I've seen our youth/knee deep in the truth/that mean to uproot/what our evil thumb grew' ... what I'm saying with the evil thumb ... the evil thumb ... its not even someone out there ... its our own fucking evil thumb that did it ... I mean its subtle but that's what I'm trying to say ...
bP: The very beginning of our conversation you mentioned independent music. If you look at your publicity photos that went out with your album you're standing in front of a wall of posters in a hoody and you're standing next to a Ted Leo and the Pharmacists poster and a Metric poster. Those are indie rock bands right now ... is that something you pay attention to?
U: You know I listen to a lot of old music ... I don't keep up exceptionally well with the current scene ... I have heard those names though ... and I think its very hilarious ... I definitely know that Ted Leo and the Pharmacists are very very big up coming indie new band ... I know they've been nominated for awards for indie records ... I mean Krs-One is also in that picture ... I mean that's an amazing picture to me ... just because the things that caught behind it are like real in the way that that's the flood lights and I'm the lamp ... I mean I know there are people who put in work and continue to put in work ... and that really feeds me and really helps me stand up straighter to know that it happens ... that it still happens ... even in this day and age ... that people respond ... that people are looking for music ... being in New York you get a unique sense of things cuz of how top down the city is with hip hop ... radio stations ... its the pay-ola ... it the people who make the scene ... and pop the bottles that get listened to ... and that's what's respected in New York ... its only affluence ... and it's a very real thing ... that some people can only respect affluence ... and that's why really more than anything ... besides to be solvent and to feed my mouth ... and take care of myself and not have to be fucking asking for handouts ... it shows and proves God ... because there are people out there that are looking for a way or being influenced by the world ... there are people who influence the world and people who are influenced by the world ... we gotta get our octaves up ... we gotta show and prove that ... that's the challenge I take upon myself ... to make this righteous shit hot ... because its so difficult to say some real shit or have a message on your shit and have that shit be listenable.
bP: So lets talk about 2005. What are we gonna see from U.S.(Uzi) in 2005?
U: Generally, just so you know ... most people say U-Zee (you-z)... that's cool that you say Uzi (oozee) ... 2005 I look to be touring a little after Memorial Day ... doing a swing around the country ... I'm headed out to Cali at the end of April ... early May ... last week of April I'm gonna be down there ... I'm just gonna be making records ... the next one I got is 'I Got Fresh Ideas' ... the cover of it is me sitting on the floor and there's this Amazonian type woman ... tall woman ... standing over me like in a mini skirt ... and I'm looking up her skirt ... 'I Got Fresh Ideas' ... and it's a love record ... I've also taken upon myself this whole business side ... just really in 2005 I'm gonna be meeting a lot of people ... that's what I really see ... just having conversations ... I'm gonna be adding my voice to the world in a great deal ... another thing is with independent records ... like if you make a major label record ... you got three weeks of mass marketing where they flood everything ...and if the shit hits or not ... its just over ... its done ... especially since most of them don't hit its over ... you get an ad for one month in the Source or XXL and then its done ... with an indie record ... and since no one knows who the fuck I am I have the whole year optimally to build noise ... I have reviews that are coming out in May or June ... because I'm a small time dude ... its not a priority ... I just flow with it ... cuz I'm not trying to take shortcuts with it ... I'm seeing man ... the things you put in work for they really pay off and then really have them ... you really wear them ... the experience ... its in your feet ... its in your hands ... its in your way ... its in everything ... I just look forward to work of adding my voice to the world ...which is such a challenge in this day and age ... to say the kind of things I talk about and not get shutdown and shouted over ... and that's a great deal why 'The Necessary Evil' is the way it is ... that's the shout part ... but you know that's not the whole thing that's just part of it ... I got a big dick I like to put in mommies and that is a very important thing that needs to be respected and spoken about and so that's the next record ...